Wunderwaffen: Nazi Wonder Weapons

Did the Nazis really have super-advanced technology, even anti-gravity flying saucers?

by Brian Dunning

Filed under Aliens & UFOs, Conspiracies, Urban Legends

Skeptoid #293
January 17, 2012
Podcast transcript | Listen | Subscribe

Nazi UFO
One of many hoax "photographs"
of Die Glocke
(Photo credit: None)

Few subjects provoke as much emotion as Nazi Germany, or attract as much attention and speculation. Since the war, we've even attached an occult mythology to Naziism, in an attempt to rationalize it away as having come from outside of our own society. This combination of true military might and mysticism has spawned a whole subculture of study of Nazi Wunderwaffen, the alleged wonder weapons with capabilities that far exceeded those of the Allied forces not only of the 1940s, but even of today. The range of these weapons goes from simple gunsights to ramjet fighter planes, and even all the way to antigravity flying saucers. How much of this mythology is true, and how much is driven more by our fascination with occultifying Naziism?

Like all military industrial complexes, Nazi Germany had military research programs, as did a huge number of civilian contractors. Within all of these scores of programs, serious plans for just about any advanced weapon you can imagine did in fact exist. As Germany's resources and manpower dwindled over the course of the war, fewer and fewer of these projects saw the light of day, but some of those that did were astonishingly advanced for their time.

We know about virtually everything that was under development in Nazi Germany because at the war's end, the Allied forces overran Germany and captured not only all of their technology in the form of operational and prototype designs, but also all of the documentation pertaining to their experiments and plans. In many cases, documentation was destroyed by the Nazis as capture became imminent; but this primarily regarded activities that were likely to be prosecuted as war crimes, such as the human experimentation programs at places like Auschwitz. All of the significant factories and design bureaus were captured relatively intact, and we have a very complete picture of what the Nazis did and did not develop.

Real weapons that the Nazis did actually build and deploy included jet powered fighters such as the Messerschmitt Me-262 and Heinkel He-162, and even a rocket powered fighter, the Me-163. There were also a number of variants and derivatives of these and similar aircraft. Toward the end of the war, some troops were armed with the Zielgerät ZG-1229 Vampir infrared gun sight, giving them night vision years before most Americans had ever dreamed of such a thing. Perhaps the pinnacle of Nazi military might was the pulsejet powered V-1 guided cruise missile, and the suborbital V-2 long-range ballistic missile, three thousand of which entered space fifteen years before Sputnik 1.

Other designs, while seemingly even more fanciful, did in fact exist, in either prototype form or completed (and perfectly sound) blueprints. Aircraft included the Horten Ho-229 jet powered flying wing, the Mach 2.2 Lippisch P13a delta winged ramjet-powered fighter, a high altitude spyplane similar to the later American U-2 called the DFS-228, even a variable geometry swing-wing jet, the Messerschmitt P.1101, which became the precursor to the later American Bell X-5. They also had designs for a number of vertical takeoff and landing jets.

The Nazis also aggressively pursued their Amerika Bomber program, hoping to create a system with the range to bomb the United States from Germany. These included variants of the Arado E.555 jet powered flying wing, and even a suborbital spaceplane called the Silbervogel which went as far as a glide test mockup. There were many, many other candidates for Amerika Bombers as well.

On land, the Nazis had plans for a pair of staggeringly gigantic tanks, the Landkreuzer P.1000 Ratte and P.1500 Monster, crewed with over 40 and 100 men respectively. They would have fired the largest artillery projectiles ever designed, the 800mm railroad gun.

At sea, the Nazis planned to equip a new type of U-Boat to fire their V-2 missiles into the United States, called the Rocket U-Boat. Three were ordered, and one was actually built, thought its testing was not completed before the war's end. And what would it have carried?

Nazi atomic warheads atop V-2 missiles were nearer to a reality than most people realize. While the Manhattan Project was happening in the United States, it had a twin hard at work in Germany: the Uranverein, or Uranium Club. The Uranium Club had just as strong a start as the Manhattan Project, perhaps even stronger; but Germany's rapidly diminishing resources over the course of the war meant that it couldn't be as fully staffed or funded as was the Manhattan Project. The operation of Germany's reactors for the breeding of plutonium required heavy water, which came from the Vemork hydroelectric plant in Norway, originally built to produce nitrogen for agriculture. The final nail in the Uranium Club's coffin came from perhaps the most important sabotage job in history: Operation Gunnerside, in which a small team of Norwegian commandos were airdropped and skied to Vemork. They climbed the cliffs surrounding the plant, entered through a utility duct, and planted explosives around the electrolysis chambers. The resulting explosions destroyed Germany's entire supply of heavy water and most of the equipment needed to produce it. 3,000 troops were sent after them, but the Norwegian commandos all escaped.

Several months later production resumed, but was hampered by severe allied bombing. Germany attempted to deliver what heavy water it had, and put the casks on a ferry. One of the commandos, Knut Haukelid, was in the area and managed to plant a bomb on board the ferry, which sank in deep water. This marked the end of Nazi Germany's atomic weapons program.

Several authors have alleged that Uranium Club scientists did, on several occasions, actually test atomic bombs. These were either hollow cores — meaning the shaped charge was in place to implode the plutonium core, but there was no plutonium — or a paraffin or silver core seeded with deuterium. But science historians have doubted the at-best controversial evidence supporting these claims, and Germany's Federal Physical and Technical Institute performed soil tests in 2006 where the tests are said to have happened and failed to find any chemical signatures.

And all of this brings us to the final, and most incredible, of the Nazi Wunderwaffen, known as Die Glocke, which means the Bell. The Bell is said to have been a saucer shaped aircraft, usually powered by a pair of rotating drums containing a mysterious iridescent purple liquid. It is this family of Nazi flying saucers, known by various nicknames and designations, that most of the Wunderwaffe mythology certers around. In all of the data and materials captured by the occupying forces, nothing remotely like the Bell was ever discovered, alluded to, or even imagined. There is, quite simply, no record indicating that anything like it existed, outside of the undocumented claims made by a number of authors and individuals decades later.

The inspiration of nearly everything found on the Internet today about Nazi flying saucers is a book, written in the year 2000 by Polish military historian Igor Witkowski called The Truth About The Wunderwaffe. Witkowski told an amazing tale: He was given access to (but not allowed to copy) the classified transcript of an interrogation by Polish agents of the Nazi SS officer Jakob Sporrenberg. Through this transcript, Witkowski claimed to have learned about Die Glocke. This account became popular in the West when aviation writer Nick Cook included it in his popular 2002 book The Hunt for Zero Point, a tale of the cranks and colorful characters who have tried to invent anti-gravity machines. Since that time, you've been able to find all you want on the Internet about Nazi flying saucers.

Whether Witkowski actually saw such a transcript, or just made it up, is unknown. He offered no evidence of its existence and nobody else, inside or outside of Poland, has ever reported seeing such a thing. But what is known is that the SS officer Sporrenberg can't corroborate Witkowski's claim. Sporrenberg was executed as a war criminal in 1952. He'd been a field officer fighting partisans, and had never had any connection with science or aviation branches of the Nazi military.

But there had been an existing mythos to anchor Witkowski's Glocke. Mythology has always surrounded the Nazis. Perhaps because of how incomprehensible was the Holocaust, post-war fascination with Naziism has tried to explain it away as the result of some demonic influence stemming from mysticism and occultism. The Nazi regime has always been a magnet for occult theories. This was born mainly in 1960 when two French authors wrote a fanciful work called The Morning of the Magicians in which they speculated about many mystical communities in Germany, among which was one inside pre-war Berlin called the Vril Society. The secretive Vril Society was said to be an inner circle among inner circles of various mystical, New Age, and occult orders. The book claimed the Vril Society formed the nucleus of the Nazi party. No reference to a Vril Society has been found documented prior to this book.

Tip Skeptoid $2/mo $5/mo $10/mo One time

But the mysterious substance Vril was itself already embedded in popular consciousness. It had been since 1870 when the popular English writer Edward Bulwer-Lytton published a science fiction novel called The Power of the Coming Race. In this story, the population of Atlantis escaped their sinking nation by fleeing to the hollow center of the Earth. They possessed a magical fluid called Vril, which served as a limitless power source and the elixir of life.

I've been able to find only one thread linking Bulwer-Lytton's fanciful novel to the Nazis. In 1935, German astronomer and rocket scientist Willy Ley emigrated to the United States, as did many of his countrymen. Ley was also a prolific writer, and mixed science fiction in with his science writing. For Astounding Science Fiction he wrote an article called "Pseudoscience in Naziland" in which he described a group that was:

...literally founded upon a novel. That group which I think called itself Wahrheitsgesellschaft — Society for Truth — and which was more or less localized in Berlin, devoted its spare time looking for Vril.

And so we have a more-or-less complete timeline of the genesis of the Nazi UFOs. They are entirely the invention of authors outside of Germany, leveraging the public's hunger for strangeness associated with the Nazis. Today, any Internet search for some of these terms will yield a tsunami of hoaxed black-and-white photographs, conspiracy theories of coverups, interviews with cranks claiming to have some insider knowledge, and endless lists of model numbers and designations of Nazi flying saucers that never existed. Within aviation and military history, no reference exists to flying saucers powered by drums of Vril or antigravity technologies.

It is the very nature of our perception of the Nazis that drives these tall tales of Wunderwaffen, not actual history. It's another case where the real wonder is in why the legend exists, not the legend itself. The Bell might never have flown, but it still offers us a fascinating lesson on why we believe.

Brian Dunning

© 2012 Skeptoid Media, Inc. Copyright information

References & Further Reading

Bulwyer-Lytton, E. The Coming Race. Edinburgh: W. Blackwood and Sons, 1871.

Cook, N. The Hunt for Zero Point. New York: Broadway Books, 2002.

Cornwell, J. Hitler's Scientists: Science, War, and the Devil's Pact. New York: Viking, 2003.

Forsyth, R. Messerschmitt Me-264 Amerika Bomber: The Luftwaffe’s Lost Transatlantic Bomber. Hersham: Classic, 2006.

Gallagher, T. Assault in Norway: Sabotaging the Nazi Nuclear Program. Guilford: The Lyons Press, 2002.

Jane's. Jane's Fighting Aircraft of Word War II. London: Bracken Books, 1989.

Karlsch, R., Walker, M. "New Light on Hitler's Bomb." Physics World. Institute of Physics, 1 Jun. 2005. Web. 15 Jan. 2011. <http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/print/22270>

Pauwels, L., Bergier, J. The Morning of the Magicians. New York: Stein and Day, 1963.

Witkowski, I. Prawda o Wunderwaffe. Warszawa: WiS-2, 2002.

Reference this article:
Dunning, B. "Wunderwaffen: Nazi Wonder Weapons." Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, Inc., 17 Jan 2012. Web. 29 Mar 2015. <http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4293>


10 most recent comments | Show all 79 comments

It makes great Sci-Fi stories but that's about it.

Rich, Philly PA
August 21, 2013 8:23am

A disappointing article, particularly the final paragraph. Can we stick to the facts rather than pushing grand theories as to what drives other people's beliefs? I don't believe in alien visitors or the occult, but I find the self-validating arguments of the arch-sceptics slightly offensive. Were I to adopt a sceptic style I may suggest the desire to debunk is driven by a superiority complex! If it is unknown what technology the Nazis had under production then let us just say that, rather than lurch violently to either side of the debate.

From my point of view, I ask myself: is it so fanciful that the Nazis had advanced technology that within their era would be considered mind-blowing, and that such technology is yet to be fully revealed? Given that the Nazi scientists worked by a philosophy that had little ethical or safety-conscious consideration I think it entirely plausible that they could benefit scientifically from such "freedom". The fact that large numbers of these scientists were recruited by the US, post-war (for top-secret research), should also be seen as evidence that perhaps they were in possession of scientific skills and knowledge that put them ahead of their ally peers.

Just because there are some modern out-there fantasies and exaggerations of what they were working on doesn't alter the reality: namely that these were great minds, ahead of the opposition in many technological areas, who were working within a culture that allowed great advances to be made.

haha, not that annoying one, making up names, oz
September 16, 2013 11:14am

a) The drive to debunk driven by a superiority complex may not be the only motive. But thanx for the compliment.
b) at least I appreciate a post on what people would like to believe as you just posted
c) Its nothing new. Question begging is after all the habit of conspiracists and alties here in skeptoid.
c) Nazi scientists in a regime were about a few years ahead of what is now 70 year old technology and very deficient in other areas of science because of their mind set.
d) what of ground breaking technology then? (The Nazi rocket program and some avionics).
e) CF with Nazi bone headed ideas and wasted efforts for really unweildy weapons systems.

Post 1942 circumstances had it that the regime had become desperate and a system bereft of ideas for a long time.

The reality being, their scientists were smart (for many) but their regime became dumb as the war progressed.

There is plenty of evidence for this and very little evidence of wunderwaffen being ferreted out and being useful to anyone today.

Maybe DC or Marvel Comics.. but no one else..Ok, the guys in pampered menial but no body else..um..monty python (bugrit)..

Thanx for the opportunity to be just that little bit more annoying..

Mezze Dining, Gerringong The IL. USO
September 16, 2013 10:16pm

Several years ago I saw a show on the History Channel hosted by Nick Cooke. The show opened with a story about the Bell and a thing called the Flytrap. Both of those things were supposed to go together. They never said what the Flytrap actually was. I'm curious if anybody knows what the Flytrap was for or a link to a page about it.

Phil, USA
November 21, 2013 3:40pm

The mystical power of the Nazis is the same as the power that convinces young women to strap bombs to themselves to detonate in a crowd of innocents and non-combatants: fanaticism and a complete absence of a moral compass.

Swampwitch, Gainesville Fl
December 17, 2013 10:36am

Personally I do not think the Nazis were anywhere near completing a bomb. The heavy water moderated reactor they were using was suitable for experiments but it could not produce fissionable material of sufficient purity or in sufficient quantities to build a bomb. That requires a huge industrial plant that the Germans did not possess. In the wake of the Allied advance across Europe the General Leslie Groves, Project Manager of the Manhattan project sent teams of scientists into Germany and formerly German occupied areas to search for the remnants of the German program. They discovered the German reactor and recovered a large amount of uranium oxide that was subsequently shipped back to the States, but their determination was that the Nazis were years away from building an atomic bomb. The operation was called the "Alsos Mission" and there is plenty of good information on their findings available online. In a nutshell, the German program was small and disorganized. They were very unlikely to build a workable bomb any time in the immediate future.

Larry, Jacksonville, FL
March 3, 2014 9:57am

It's not called "the bell" that is bullshit made up by a Pole to draw tourists to an old water tank stand.

There was 3 different types of flying disk using electrogravitic propulsion, Vril, Haunebu and RFZ.

Declassified blueprints (50 years later) captured from Nazi Germany are out there, such as this one:


Anonymous, Earth
April 5, 2014 8:51pm

if the Nazis had all these fantastic weapons how come they lost they could just do a bit of time travel and change the outcome yet I don't see a picture of adolf on my wall funny that.spitfires and huricanes shot their experimental jets out of the sky in the closing stages of the war so much for their wonder weapons.

andy, glasgow
April 6, 2014 7:40pm

ill say this though if they had mass produced the me 262 I would have a picture of adolf on my wall

andy, glasgow
April 15, 2014 6:30pm

In any war, it doesn't matter how many advanced weapon systems you've got, if you haven't got the resources to maintain them, the ability to overcome technical hitches (in the ME 262's case, the engines) and be able to build them in sufficientt numbers to make a difference to the war.

I don't recall any Hurricanes shooting ME262's out of the sky, mainly only P51's and Hawker Tempests that caught them when they were taking off or landing, predominantly.

My opening posts on this thread dealt with Brian's assertions that "we" know virtually everything about what the Germans were developing, after the war ended, something I argued against on at least two counts.

Firstly, with some 1600-1800 Nazi's sent to the US under Operation Paperclip, it is possible that some plans were only ideas in the heads of said Nazi's such as Wernher von Braun etc, and were not yet in the formal planning stages.
As the public of any country never knows the whole truth about weapon systems of their nation, due to security, how can such a statement as Brian's have any validity.

Secondly, it is possible that some concept was so advanced that the technology didn't exist to build the necessary materials until some time in the then future, and said concept has never been revealed to the public.

Unless "we" are/were in the inner echelons of top secret weapons development programs, both now and then after the Nazi's arrival in the US, how could "we" ever virtually know everything about them ?

Macky, Auckland
November 22, 2014 8:29pm

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